The roots of my love for these dumplings are in my childhood memories when I remember my grandmother’s hot kitchen, where she made perogies with cheese, potatoes, plums, and mushrooms. We covered them in sour cream, fried them in butter, and served them with garlic sausages. This is my idea of comfort food.
My love for Eastern European staples like pierogi and pyrohy has led me to follow Alberta’s Perogy Trail. I have visited a “living” Ukrainian Museum, where costumed docents prepare dumplings. And, driving dusty backroads, I found the world’s most enormous perogy sculpture, a 27-foot perogy on a fork in the tiny village of Glendon.
Perogies are a staple in my family’s everyday meals and celebrations. Perogies were always a part of my family’s traditional and holiday celebrations. The delayed Orthodox (a.k.a. It makes sense to gather in the middle of winter to make perogies.
Bella Montgomery’s Perogy Pinchers Victoria cooking class teaches you how to make perogies island-style all year long. Montgomery says she started with just ten to twelve people and now has 25 or more in her two-hour hands-on classes, held at community centers, church basements, and other venues throughout the city. “I bring the perogies, and we make the filling together and pinch them.”
Montgomery, who had moved from the prairies to Victoria, began making perogies using her family’s recipe to keep in touch with her Ukrainian roots. Many of those who attend her perogy class have fond memories of tasty dumplings from their childhood. They don’t make perogies as often as I do.
It’s best to pinch perogies together as you would make Chinese dumplings, samosas, or any other tricky food. As they say, many hands make light work, and many people make a lot of pierogies. These tasty treats can be frozen for later consumption.
It makes things a whole lot easier, says Montgomery. He recalls making perogies with his family and preparing “50 to 60 dozen” at a go for special occasions.
The other draw to the perogy-making class today is that everyone comes with their baking trays, mixing bowls, and the promise to leave with their own perogies.
Perogies are easy to make, requiring less of a recipe and more of a technique. The basic dough is mixed; mashed potatoes are seasoned and often combined with cheese or sauteed onion.
Each grandmother adds a little twist to her recipe. Montgomery’s recipe for tender perogy dough uses only sour cream and flour, no eggs. As a child, my family would add mashed potatoes to the dough for a soft, almost like gnocchi wrapper.
Some people prefer perogies that have thin, transparent skin. You can use a pre-made egg-roll wrapper instead of hand-rolled dough to save time. Just make sure to moisten the floury edges for a good seal.
Perogies are available with various fillings, including mashed potatoes and cheddar cheese. You can also have them filled with cottage cheese, meat, or even sauteed sauerkraut and mushrooms.
Use less filling. Ensure that your perogies’ edges are clean to ensure a good seal. Otherwise, they may explode when you boil them. One teaspoon of filling will fit into a three-inch perogy. Montgomery suggests gently pinching the edges closed with your thumb pad after folding the dough around the filling. Perogies are traditionally not sealed with metal utensils or a fork to avoid dough puncturing. Pour the filled perogies into boiling water with some oil and salt. Stir gently with a wooden spoon until they float, and then remove them carefully with a slotted teaspoon.
It’s hard to say where the perogy originated. Dumplings are a staple in Slavic culture, which includes Ukraine, Poland, and other parts of Eastern Europe. But thanks to early immigrants, this is a food of people experiencing poverty that has made its way into the American food culture.
Perogies have become as expected and as Canadian as Nanaimo bars and poutine. Chefs are experimenting with the dumplings for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Local food trucks specialize in perogies. Restaurants like Victoria’s Sult Pierogi Bar offer a variety of perogy toppings and fillings, including barbecue tofu and kimchi.
According to the vintage edition of Traditional Ukrainian Cookery by Savella Stchishin. Published in Winnipeg in 1957 and considered the last word in the field, the varenyky, as she calls them, should be “tender with a thin layer of dough.”
The traditional Stechishin recipe only has four ingredients but includes a full page of instructions on how to mix, knead, roll, fill, and cook the dumplings.